Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on Thursday lambasted “media hysteria” linking President Trump with Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
“Countless media articles falsely claimed the President was under investigation for colluding with Russia,” he said on the Senate floor.
“And, unfortunately, a number of our Democrat colleagues in the House and Senate played right along,” the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman added.
“Over and over again, the media published selective leaks. They published classified half-truths. All this was used to make false allegations sinister conduct by the President. And a lot of people believed it.”
Grassley additionally blamed former FBI Director James Comey for not clarifying whether Trump was under investigation for potential collusion with Russia.
“Because Mr. Comey refused to tell the public that the FBI was not investigating the President, conspiracy theories and wild speculation have run rampant about the election, the President, and Russia,” he said.
“These conspiracy theories and wild speculation have played right into Russia’s aim of undermining faith in our democratic system. Those national security concerns should have taken precedence.”
Trump earlier Thursday tweeted that he does possess “tapes” or other recordings of his past conversations with Comey.
With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2017
...whether there are "tapes" or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2017
Trump’s abrupt firing of Comey in May set off a firestorm of speculation over the president’s motives in the media.
Comey’s ouster came amid the FBI’s ongoing probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential race, including possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow.